In the Bulgarian village Kirkovo on 22 May, Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boyko Borrisov hosted his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras at a ceremony to launch the 180-kilometre Interconnector Greece Bulgaria (IGB) pipeline, aiming to reduce the Balkan’s gas reliance on Russia by bringing gas to the region from Azerbaijan.

Borrisov called the IGB a project of “strategic importance” not only for Bulgaria and Greece but for the whole of Europe, including the countries in the Western Balkans, noting that the pipeline “will lead to real diversification of gas supplies.”

Greek Energy Minister George Stathakis, who attended the ceremony with his Bulgarian counterpart Temenuzhka Petkova, reminded that Greek companies would construct the pipeline. “It’s a historical moment for the Balkans but also for the wider region of southeast Europe. We’re laying the foundation for a unified gas market in our area, securing at the same time, the region’s energy supply,” he said.

The Greek energy minister took time to thank Petkova “for excellent cooperation” to implement this project.

Earlier this month, ICGB AD, the company that will construct, own and operate the IGB has chosen after a tender Greece’s J&P AVAX to construct the pipeline.

IGB is supported by the European Union since it will enhance the security of supply and ensuring the diversification of gas supplies for Bulgaria and the Southeast Europe Region.

The IGB gas pipeline, which will be connected with the Greek national gas transmission system in the area of Komotini and with the Bulgarian national gas transmission system in the area of Stara Zagora, will have a capacity up to 3 billion cubic metres in the direction from Greece to Bulgaria.

Depending on the interest from the market and the capacities of the neighbouring gas transmission systems, the pipeline is designed for increasing its capacity up to 5 billion cubic metres for following up the market evolution thus allowing physical reverse flow (from Bulgaria to Greece) with the additional installation of a compressor station. A Memorandum for cooperation between ICGB and the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) has been signed concerning joint actions in relation to the future connection between the IGB pipeline and TAP.